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The avocado tree produces one of the most well-known but least understood fruits, also known as the butter pear, alligator pear, persea Americana or love fruit. Many people have eaten the avocado fruit or seen it in grocery stores, but few realize that they it is indeed a fruit and grown on trees. Even fewer people realize that the avocado tree is also a flowering plant, and can be a houseplant or decorative plant as well as a fruit-bearing tree.
The avocado tree is native to South and Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, and flourishes in tropical climates. The avocado is in the plant family Lauraceae along with another tree used in the kitchen, the bay laurel. The egg- or pear-shaped avocado fruit itself is technically a very large berry because it contains a seed. This large black seed, called a pit, is surrounded by soft green or yellow flesh and covered by a tough, bumpy skin.
An avocado tree can be grown at home using the pit from an avocado from the grocery store. The first step is to make the pit produce a seedling. Wash and dry the avocado pit, and then pierce it with toothpicks. Set the avocado pit in a glass of water so that the wider bottom of the pit is in the water and the pointed top is in the air. The toothpicks will keep the pit suspended above the water.
Set the glass and pit in a windowsill or other sunny spot, and keep refilling the water so that the bottom of the pit is always wet. In anywhere from three to six weeks, the avocado pit will begin growing roots into the water and stems into the air. The new avocado tree will be ready to plant in two or three more weeks when there are enough roots to support the plant.
Transplanting should be done when the stems are about six inches tall. Plant the young avocado plant in a large flowerpot in moist, fertilized soil. Pinching off the top few leaves will encourage the avocado tree to produce more stems and grow bushy.Avocado trees grow best in warm, moist conditions, so they should be kept indoors during the cooler winter months, and watered frequently. The soil should be kept moist but not muddy. The tree must be mature to grow fruit, which can take anywhere from four to six years. If gardeners enjoy the look of the avocado tree, there are also flowering varieties that can be cultivated like houseplants.
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